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Romare Bearden Revealed

Branford Marsalis Quartet

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Album Review

Conceptualized around the visionary paintings of Harlem-born artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988), saxophonist Branford Marsalis' Romare Bearden Revealed celebrates the obvious as well as the less tangible connections between the jazz Bearden loved and the artwork it inspired. Reflectively performing some of the songs Bearden co-opted as titles for paintings, Marsalis also includes original compositions inspired by the bluesy, organic quality inherent in Bearden's art. Featuring his working quartet of pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, the album also includes appearances by the whole Marsalis family. Brother Wynton Marsalis revisits his post-bop "J Mood" from his 1985 album of the same name, which featured cover art by Bearden. The trumpeter also keeps things bawdy with some brilliant plunger work on a live recording of Jelly Roll Morton's "Jungle Blues." Similarly, "B's Paris Blues" finds Branford turning his trademark soprano sax to the 1961 Bearden work Paris Blues, celebrating the beauty and ennui of American black musicians who expatriated to France for artistic and social freedom. Even Harry Connick, Jr. drops by for a lithe and soulful stride duet on James P. Johnson's "Carolina Shout." Perhaps most compelling, though, is guitarist Doug Wamble's solo turn on "Autumn Lamp." Inspired by Beardens' 1981 rural vision of a blues guitarist playing by himself under the glow of candle lamp, Wamble utilizes a resonator guitar with a slide, calling to mind Mississippi Fred McDowell's version of "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning" (perhaps Bearden's inspiration as well?). From one great artist to another, this is an earthy and accessible homage.

Biography

Born: 26 August 1960 in Breaux Bridge, LA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The oldest of the four musical Marsalis brothers, Branford Marsalis has had an impressive career. After studying at Southern University and Berklee, Branford toured Europe with the Art Blakey big band in the summer of 1980 (playing baritone), played three months with Clark Terry, and then spent five months playing alto with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1981). He mostly played tenor and soprano while with Wynton Marsalis' influential group (1982-1985), at first sounding most influenced by Wayne Shorter...
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Romare Bearden Revealed, Branford Marsalis Quartet
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